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  • Writer's pictureKathy Rumsey

A tribute to a special dog.

As I ventured outside today to enjoy the beautiful weather, I was brought back to a Columbus Day weekend some 16 years ago…. That weekend, I remember, had equally lovely weather. You know the kind — a “warm” snap with temps in the upper 60s and sunshine. For October in New England, you can’t ask for much better. But 16 years ago, I was experiencing tremendously sad emotions that I’m sure many of you can relate to, as I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to put my dog, Blitz, to sleep after finding out his body was full of cancer.

Some nine years before that weekend (for those doing the math, that’s 25 years ago), my husband Pete and I had put a purchase offer on our first house and our first order of business once we knew we would have a home of our own was to get a dog. It ended up being a couple of dogs actually. Blitz and Maxine were our first pups as adults. They were litter-mates who had been born around the same time we were house hunting. We moved into our home (where we still live!) In early April 1994, and two weeks later, we brought home our two German shepherd pups. They were both wonderful dogs, but Blitz was (to me) extra special. I couldn’t explain it then, and I can’t explain it now, but he was just the perfect dog. Even when he did something wrong, in my eyes, he could do no wrong. I could go on forever about all the wonderful things about him, but I know most, if not all of you, know what I’m talking about.

Blitz was the reason I became involved in becoming a therapy animal team with Pet Partners, though he was never able to become a therapy dog. About a month before he passed, we were in the waiting room of a veterinary office, and he was lying quietly at my feet. A woman came up to me and asked if she could pet him. She went on to remark about what an excellent temperament he had and how he would make a wonderful therapy dog. It was 2003, and that was the first time I had heard the term “therapy dog.” Unfortunately, Blitz died a few weeks later, so we never had the opportunity to pursue it.

After this death, I went into a period of mourning for Blitz that lasted a long time. Five months to be exact. I had decided I would never get another dog. Never go through the heartache of losing something I loved so much. But after five months, Pete came up to me one morning on his way to work as I was standing at the kitchen sink, looking at the backyard, missing Blitz, and crying. He looked at me and kindly said: “you’re a dog person. I really think you need to get another dog”. It wasn’t the first time he’d said it to me in those months, but for whatever reason, that morning I listened and I agreed.

I jumped on the internet that day, looking for available puppies and came across a woman whose dog had, two days previously, had a litter of puppies. I had no doubt then, nor do I now, that Blitz’s soul had been wherever our souls go after we die pulling strings and leading me to this particular woman and a particular puppy that had just been born. We welcomed Angus into our home eight weeks later. Blitz had been my “heart-dog,” what I always understood to be that once-in-a-lifetime dog that we get if we are lucky enough. Angus wasn’t Blitz, but he was adorable, and I was in love with the furry little guy. Angus was a wonderful companion to my children (6 & 4 years old when we brought him home), and he brought so much joy to not just my family, but to many, many people as he became my first therapy dog. Angus was a phenomenal therapy dog, and our relationship bloomed and solidified with all the training and work we did together. I occurred to me one day that if “heart-dogs” were a once in a lifetime thing, perhaps Blitz hadn’t been that for me because it seemed to me that Angus definitely was.

Five years ago, as Angus was getting near the end of his life, it was because of him that I was introduced to the world of animal communication. His death was both beautiful and heartbreaking, and I miss him dearly to this day. I had learned, however, that I am indeed a dog person, and so, while I didn’t jump right up and go looking for a puppy, I knew someday I would get another dog. Another dog, yes. Another German Shepherd, no. I decided that no other shepherd could live up to the memory of Angus. He was such a perfect dog. I didn’t want myself getting another shepherd who would have to live in the shadow of Angus, if only in my mind.

And that’s how I ended up with Odin, my Leonberger. My kids, now both in their late teens, were thrilled with the BIG fluffy pup that Pete and I brought home on a June day two years ago. Since I had already had my once-in-a-lifetime heart dog two times now, I did not expect that Odin would be anything more than a well-loved member of my animal family. I never thought that the kind of connection I had with Angus, and Blitz before him, would happen again.

Perhaps it’s because I had no expectations of what my relationship with Odin would look like. Maybe it’s because I am a three times (and counting?) lucky lady to have had such a special soul come into my life. I don’t know. But I do know this, Odin is no doubt my heart dog as was Angus. And even though It’s been 17 years, I do not doubt that Blitz had also been my heart-dog.

Blitz at 6 months old, with Maxine standing.

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